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Fitampoha – A growth opportunity for cultural tourism in Madagascar

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The Fitampoha took place in Belo Tsiribihina this August. Over the centuries of celebration, the practice of this tradition has evolved.

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Fitampoha : a cultural legacy in favor of tourism

The Fitampoha 2022 was celebrated from August 4th to 12th 2022 in Belo Tsiribihina. This tradition devoted to the bath of royal relics is upheld from the start of the Sakalava tribe history. This dynastic practice is filled of potential for developing the tourism.

The authenticity of the Fitampoha is complete for establishing a cultural identity for the benefit of tourism while respection the taboos. It should begin by enhancing the organization and planning of the event. That can help to bring out the best of the experience during the event. The planners of the Fitampoha have already undertook the effort of improving the preparation of this edition 2022. It should be strengthened by the government.

As part of the organization of the Fitampoha, the planners express their enthusiasm on their Facebook page Fitampoha-Menabe:

 « Planning the event of Fitampoha symbolizes such a pride, brotherhood and unity for Malagasy people and involves the participation of all. A National And regional Committees  are implemented. They gather the «olobe » of the nation and the olobe from the region of Menabe ».

 For enhancing visitors’ comfort, they state the actions adopted :

« We decided to put first the construction of boxes in Matsia for hosting the visitors and guests. The most important one is also to sanitary installation which will be constructed far away from the sacred zone and the hosting space to avoid the desecration and to stay hygienic and clean. For the safety and healthiness of the sacred zone, the electrification of the emplacement of the ceremony is essential. »

Without hesitation, they express their concern about the preparation of the event : 

« The ceremony lasts one week, a great celebration of the Sakalava tribe which will be attended by the Sakalava people foreign tourists. That’s why the organization of the Fitampoha requires an important budget ».

This traditional event should have been held in 2020, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 health crisis.

Famous for the Alley of baobabs and the mangrove woods, the region of Menabe can attract more visitors through the event of Fitampoha. Fitampoha is a dynasty ritual by which the dady or the relics of the ancient kings are bathed in the Tsiribihina river. Nowadays, this tradition conquers the amateurs of history and the ancestor worship. That is why the fitampoha reaches a great scale of fame nationally and internationally. For now, it is no more limited in the sakalava tribe but relevant to the whole of Madagascar. This is how the fitampoha becomes a malagasy cultural heritage.

During the service, traditional music is played. cc: Facebook/Fitampoha-Menabe

Fitampoha, a cult dedicated to the Sakalava kings

The term « Fitampoha » is from the malagasy verb « mitampoka » which means to bath. This cult of Sakalava dynasty is a parade to bring the royal relics to have a ritual bath in the sacred river of Tsiribihina. All of the royal dignitary attend the event in order to renew the « toky » or loyality towards the souvereignity.

Nowadays, the Fitampoha is celebrated every 5 years. It unfolds during 5 days in a row. The ceremony of the 4 days are characterized by ceremony of meat of ox and alcohol followed by a musical animation. After this ceremony of opening, the serious things can begin. The dady are taken out of the zomba and brought to the isle of Ampasy for bathing on the beach of Belo sur Tsiribihina. The 7th day is about to dry the royal bones. While carrying the dady, the son-in-law of the king, the sazoka, the mpibaby and those who are chosen can attend this sacred ritual. After the drying time, the relics are greasing with flavoured oil of ox and got back to the zomba.

As of now, this ritual becomes an an effective way to show the respect for the ancient and strengthen the link between humans and the Creator Zanahary. As his Majesty Kamamy Magloire, the custumary king of the Sakalava from Menabe :

«The bathing of the relics is the major of the tradition for the sakalava kingdom. It is an effective way to benefiting the blessing of the Creator through the royal ancestors of Menabe : health, finance, progress and  social harmony. »

The Sakalava king expresses himself about his expectationin persisting this custom :

« At this start of the third millenium, we believe that a regular celebration of this kind of tradition such the fitampoha is served to bring back the rememberance of the ancient culture of the Sakalava tribe. Our history is basically bequeathed by word of mouth. So it is important that this history is kept : because a nation without history is a nation without identity of its humanity. The engagement of all will make sure the success of this valuable event. »

Translated by Laurencia Navoko Razafindratiana

Glossary :

Daba : a kind of drum for the antsa

Dady : relics of the acient kings sakalava

Haloday : rooms built with mineral products where the sazoka and the royal family stay during the reception of the presents from the visitors

Mpiamby : those who bring the materials which belong to the ancient kings

Mpibaby : Those who bring the relics of the kings

Rivotse : tent with white sails where the dady are kept during the fitampoha in the Tsiribihina

Sazoka : women possessed with the spirits of ancient kings

Toka : prayers dedicated to the ancestors

Tromba : cult of the manifestation of royal ancestors

Zomba : a devoted house for the royal relics

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